The Dare County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing for the county’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, June 5, 2023. The public hearing will take place in the commissioners’ meeting room, which is adjacent to the Dare County Administration Building located at 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo.
In-person comments may be offered during the public hearing in Manteo, and public comments will also be accepted at the Fessenden Center, which is located at 46830 N.C. Highway 12 in Buxton.
Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten presented the county’s recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 to the Dare County Board of Commissioners at a special meeting that was held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
The recommended Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget includes no property tax increase—with the property tax rate to remain at 40.05 cents per $100 of assessed value—and preserves Dare County’s high-quality service delivery to residents, property owners and visitors, while also addressing the goals of the Dare County Board of Commissioners. Dare County currently ranks as the county with the 7th lowest property tax of all 100 counties in the State of North Carolina.
The purpose of Dare County’s annual budget process is to develop a fiscally responsible plan that enables the county to accomplish priorities established by the Dare County Board of Commissioners. At a prior retreat, the board provided the following strategic focus areas for the upcoming budget: long-term financial planning for capital, economic development, education, human resources and maintaining all current levels of services.
GENERAL FUND BUDGET EXPENDITURES:
Of the proposed $130,083,408 General Fund budget, the largest expenditures are allocated to public safety, which includes the Dare County EMS Department, Dare County Sheriff’s Office and Dare County Emergency Management Department (31 percent); education, which includes Dare County Schools and College of The Albemarle – Dare Campus (23 percent); as well as human services (14 percent) and general government (13 percent).
The remaining portions of the fund are dedicated to economic and physical development, environmental protection, and cultural and recreational expenses, as well as the Dare County Regional Airport and transfers to other funds. (The chart below shows proposed expenditures for the next fiscal year as a percentage of total by function).
Dare County Schools
Dare County’s contribution to Dare County Schools for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 is proposed to increase by $1.35 million from the previous fiscal year for a local funding total of $28.3 million, which consists of $26.9 million in current expenses, as well as $1.4 million for county-employed school nurses and school resource officers.
There is only one county-funded school system in the State of North Carolina that receives more local funding than Dare County Schools. The number of pupils enrolled at Dare County Schools in the fall of 2022 was 4,963, which is projected to increase to 5,036 for the fall of 2023. According to the county manager’s proposed budget, the 2022-2023 General Fund expenditures for Dare County Schools total $5,341 per student.
Dare County Employees
The proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 dedicates funding for the addition of one new Dare County position—a senior social worker supervisor for the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services—and eliminates 11 Dare County positions, all of which were done per departmental requests.
Also included in the recommended budget is funding for the continued implementation of the employee classification and compensation study, as well as a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for benefits-eligible full-time and part-time Dare County employees.
The water rate model update for Fiscal Year 2023-2024 has been completed, with the budget proposing an annual 2 percent rate increase for water customers located within the unincorporated areas of Dare County.
The average quarterly residential water bill for a one- to three-person household in the unincorporated areas of Dare County ranges from $42.59 to $70, which would therefore increase by $0.85 and $1.40, respectively.
The average quarterly residential water bill for a three- to five-person household in the unincorporated areas of Dare County ranges from $70 to $120, which would increase by $1.40 and $2.40, respectively.
The recommended Water Capital Improvements Plan is currently in process, and once it has been approved it will be incorporated into the final budget document.
The Sanitation Fund’s property tax rate in the proposed Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget will increase from 10 cents to 11 cents per $100 of assessed value per the recommendation of the county’s solid waste study that was completed in 2022. The report and model plans for a 1 cent increase in three of the four following years to 13 cents in 2027.
This rate increase will only impact property owners whose residences are located within the unincorporated areas of Dare County. For properties with a $100,000 valuation, the increase would therefore be $10; on a $250,000 valuation, the increase would be $25; and on a $500,000 valuation, the increase would be $50.
Capital Investment Fund and Capital Improvements Plan
The Capital Investment Plan is budgeted separately from the General Fund. In conjunction with the Capital Investment Fund, Dare County maintains a Capital Planning & Debt Affordability Model that includes plans for major items, including roof replacements, heating and air conditioning replacements, major equipment replacements and major maintenance for the Dare MedFlight helicopter.
Model development is currently in process, and plans will be presented to the Dare County Board of Commissioners once it has been completed. The approved Capital Improvements Plan will then be incorporated into the final budget document.